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How to Avoid Purchasing Your Own Haunted House

Did you grow up in a neighborhood where there was a “haunted” house? You know, the house that everyone knew about that usually had an overgrown yard and broken windows? The house that sat empty for years except for the teenagers that frequented it for weekend parties or the younger kids who dared one another to go into the house at night?

This type of house was a hot ticket around Halloween, and kids scared one another with stories about what happened in the house and whose spirit haunted the house. You know the house I am talking about.

As a home buyer, you may hope that all houses with sordid histories are so easy to identify, but the problem is that they often look as nice or nicer than the other houses in the neighborhood.

The Hankins Bought a Former Meth House

Inside Edition recently shared the story of the Hankins who bought a house in foreclosure for $36,000. They spent some time and money remodeling the house and were happy to move into their bargain home. . .until they all began to get sick. They suffered from an array of symptoms including blinding headaches and trouble breathing.

The cause? The home had been a former meth production lab and had a “level of meth residue” that was “80 times above the legal limit” (Inside Edition [3]). When the Hankins contacted their mortgage lender, Freddie Mac, they were told that the company did not know the house’s history and was not responsible.

Would You Live In a House Where Someone Died?

If you consider purchasing an older house, the chances are good that someone has died there.

Some people are squeamish about living in a house where anyone died, even if it was of natural causes. I would not mind living in a house where someone died of natural causes, but I would mind if the person had committed suicide or been murdered.

The problem is that sellers don’t want to advertise such gruesome details. According to AOL Real Estate [4], “Only about half of the states in the U.S. have formal seller-disclosure laws. Many sellers and representing agents do not have to reveal if there was a murder on the premises unless the buyers ask.” Sometimes, the house is razed, as in the case of John Wayne Gacy’s home, but another home is erected. A new home stands on Gacy’s lot where 29 people were buried. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

How to Verify Your Home Wasn’t a Crime Scene

Do you want to make sure you don’t move into a former crime scene? There are some steps you can take.

1. Ask the seller or real estate agent.  However, be aware that in some states if the crime took place over a year ago, they do not have to disclose that to you (AOL Real Estate [4]).

2. Google the address.  If the home as a scandalous past, you may find newspaper articles about it online.

3. Ask the local police. You may need to pay to access the records, but you will be able to see if the police have ever been to the residence, and if they have, why.

4. Ask the neighbors.  Neighbors may want to share the dirt on the property, so try to talk to them before signing a contract. If the home is clean, at least you have already met the neighbors before you moved in.

Would you buy a house where someone died? Have you bought a house with a history like that?

Happy Halloween!